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There's nothing productive about berating people based on their college-related decisions.

Deciding where to attend college, when to go and if one should go at all is a big decision. Usually, this decision is made during a student’s senior year of high school. Traditionally, a student would go directly from high school to a four-year institution, but this isn’t always the case. Some students choose to take a year off of school to work or travel before going to college. This is known as a gap year and is proven to actually be a beneficial choice for many students. Some students also choose to attend a community college to save money before moving to a four-year college. Each of these choices can help students, depending on their individual situation. Problems arise when students become critical or judgemental of one another based on these choices.

Within the state of Virginia alone, each college comes with its own set of stereotypes and preconceived notions that students may fall into the moment that they announce their plans of attendance. This can make students even more stressed about their decision out of fear that they’ll be judged based on a stereotype about a college that they may choose to attend.

For many students applying to college, these phrases can be constantly heard. Students have reported being exceptionally excited about being admitted into a university only to be told by their peers that this isn’t that big of an accomplishment. This can be devastating to students who are already stressed by the admissions process only to be put down because their top choice was someone else’s safety school. 

Another source of college judgment is the decision to attend a community college for two years before moving to a four-year college. This can actually be a very beneficial decision for many students because it can allow them to save a lot of money. It’s also helpful to students who may not be sure what they want to study because they can explore a variety of interests without the pressure of declaring a major the moment they begin college. Some people view community college as being only for the academically unmotivated, but it’s simply not the case. 

There’s a stereotype that community colleges aren’t academically challenging or not even fit to be called real colleges. This isn’t the case, and they’re a great launching point for many students. Community college can also be a great option for those who find that a four-year college becomes too expensive after they’ve already started. 

Yet another college decision that students may face judgment for is the decision to transfer colleges. This is something not many people talk about but is actually relatively common. No one college can be the perfect fit for every student. Many find that they made the wrong decision after beginning at a college. They frequently feel alone because of this decision and worry that they may regret the decision to transfer. Some students judge their peers who choose to transfer, saying that they’re just failing to adjust as well as everyone else. This isn’t true, because students may find that their needs simply aren’t being met by their current college.

There are many aspects to the college decision process. This includes what university a student attends if they want to take a year off, attend a community college, or even transfer universities. Each of these is a valid option that’s unique to each individual. Problems arise when students can be harsh and judgemental towards one another based on these choices. This can be harmful and create nothing but more stress for students. For this reason, there should be efforts to stop college judgment and shaming.

Georgia Leipold-Vitiello is a freshman media art and design major. Contact her at leipolge@dukes.jmu.edu.